The Head of Terror
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Before the Tyrannosaurus rex and its friends terrorized the Earth, there was another predator that dominated the planet 40 million years before dinosaurs emerged, Science Alert reported.
Meet the Pampaphoneus biccai, described as “a gnarly-looking beast … (that) must have evoked sheer dread in anything that crossed its path,” according to paleontologist Stephanie Pierce.
Pierce and her colleagues recently discovered a fossilized skull of the prehistoric predator in the jungles of southern Brazil.
They wrote in their study that the thick skull was around 265 million years old and measured nearly 14.2 inches in length.
Researchers explained that Pampaphoneus – which translates to “terrible head” in Greek – was a formidable predator, about 10 feet high and weighed more than 880 pounds. It packed large, sharp canine teeth and had a bite that could chew through bones.
The team said the creature belonged to the early therapsid clade dinocephalia, a major group of huge terrestrial animals that came before the famed dinosaurs. P. biccai lived at the end of the Permian period, just before a mass extinction event that eradicated 86 percent of all animal species on Earth.
While dinocephalian fossils have been unearthed in Russia and South Africa, P. biccai stands as the sole species of its kind identified in Brazil. This well-preserved fossil has also revealed new, previously unknown characteristics of the species when compared with a smaller skull discovered in 2008.
“Its discovery is key to providing a glimpse into the community structure of terrestrial ecosystems just prior to the biggest mass extinction of all time,” said Pierce. “A spectacular find that demonstrates the global importance of Brazil’s fossil record.”